Mind and Body

The Importance of Honey Bee Health

  • A bee collects pollen from a sunflower.

    A bee collects pollen from a sunflower.  (Reuters )

Most people don’t realize that the beekeeping industry is responsible for one-third of the food we eat.

In the past six years however, the annual die-off of those little pollinating insects responsible for fertilizing plants – a process essential for maintaining our food supply – has become increasingly dramatic. It is a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

The consequence of colony collapse can be economically significant as well. Without a thriving bee population produce prices would skyrocket and the food industry could lose billions of dollars. It is for this reason that mounting reports of CCD has beekeepers, naturalists and government scientists concerned.

There have been a number of possible explanations for CCD including urbanization, disease, water pollution and parasitic mites.

Many researchers and beekeepers however, now suspect the introduction of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides as a possible catalyst for the vanishing bees.

Initially introduced to food production in 1994, naonicotinoid pesticides are absorbed into every part of a plant, including the roots, stems, leaves and pollen. When bees pollinate, they carry the pesticide chemicals back to their hives.

Although there has always be concerns about the possible harmful affects and residues left by these chemicals, clothianidin, manufactured and marketed by chemical giant Bayer CropScience in 2003, is considered highly toxic and now suspected as the agent responsible for the demise of honey bee hives around the world.

Prior to its registration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressed concerns about clothianidin’s affect on bee populations and suggested the chemical include a label warning that “this compound is toxic to honey bees. ”

Click here to read it.

In spite of the agency’s reservations, the EPA agreed to a conditional registration of clothianidin.

Last December, the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) joined other environmentalists and beekeepers in calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a stop-use order for the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin.

This action was in response to the disclosure of an internal memo describing a two-year-old study by researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory and Penn State University. The yet to be published study found that extremely low “microscopic” concentrations of clothianidin, capable of weakening honey bees and thus making them vulnerable to death.

In the letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, the groups cited the memo in which the agency’s own scientists questioned the validity of a scientific support study used to justify the registration of the pesticide and asked Jackson to “exercise the Agency’s emergency powers to take the pesticide off the market.”

Click here to read it.

Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, who obtained the memo astutely noted, "The environment has become the experiment and all of us – not just bees and beekeepers – have become the experimental subjects."

Although Bayer CropScience, the manufacturer of most neonicotinoid insecticides, insists their products are “safe,” their use has been limited or banned in a number of countries including Germany, Italy, France and Slovenia.

Both the U.S. and Britain however, continue to allow the use of neonicotinoids. Today clothianidin is widely used on corn seeds and other crops such as wheat, soy and sunflowers. Tests conducted by the Pesticide Action Network have found clothianidin in watermelon, peaches, cherries, strawberries, spinach, summer squash, tomatoes and potatoes.

Click here to find out more. 

Pesticides are meant to kill pests. So it should come as no great surprise that they would kill bees.

Who knows what effect these supposedly “harmless” small amounts have when consumed every day for 20, 30, 40, 50 years? The facts are still clear that if bees become extinct we will have a severe collapse in our food chain.

Suggested reading:
Bees facing a poisoned spring (The Independent, Jan.20, 2011)

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children’s health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com

Deirdre Imus, Founder of the site devoted to environmental health, www.ImusEnvironmentalHealth.org, is President and Founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She is a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com, and Fox Business Channel. Check out her website at www.ImusEnvironmentalHealth.org. Follow her on Twitter@TheGreenDirt and 'like' her Facebook page here.